Have you ever referred to a novel as if it were a common prayer book? I can't say I have. There's not one book that appeals to me to do so, although there's plenty, though read and not re-read, that I cannot rid myself of, not for any sentimental value but because of the story, the prose, the feelings that arose in that first reading.
that were so thoroughly enjoyed that though edible they remain a
little undigested, yet often it's not even the words themselves that
sit in the cave of my stomach but the remembrance of emotion. The
feeling of being swept along as if a not unpleasant gusty wind pulled
me this way and that, and time, the time I was governed by, slipped
away, so that the need to read pushed me ever on, heedless of the
ground I walked upon. I wouldn't have realised if my feet had no path
to tread, just air.
lost feeling, as in forgetting oneself, whilst a world that's unlike
your own swallows you whole cannot, I think, be divined elsewhere.
That is a mark of a truly good novel, an excellent piece of writing.
that wields the pen, or in modern days taps the keys, is the channel
through which it (the story) flows, and undoubtedly they deserve some
credit, but all? Aren't they too tapping in, like you in your
reading, to a source that cannot be described. Something of that time
that possibly won't be repeated, or none too often. And if they do,
are able to somehow keep that door open, then they are fortunate
writing of some novels cannot be accounted for, even by the authors.
Or is it just the looking back that cannot be explained? The urge to
write gone, the story as needed to be told written out, and with it
the laborious love that went into it, so that later when it's in
circulation and people enquire, as people will enquire, the
inspiration is harder to define, let alone rationalise to those
and however such a novel comes into being it's a collaborative act
between the writer and I don't know what: a ripeness, an opportune
time, something with a fantastical aura about it that has sought and
now found the right mind; you might even hear an audible click! when
this pairing is made. And that partnership might last or it might
fade, be intermittent or even disappear altogether.
novels that satisfy us as mere readers sometimes fail to satisfy
their writers, upon later reflection, because, I think, when the
moment has passed a link gets severed. The gift has been given and
offered. The public swoons but the writer will have moved on; the
deliciousness of the prose there for others to enjoy. The experience
of being read very different to being written, for nobody, I believe,
can conceive how a voice in your head will be read. The tone in which
it was set dependent on the eyes and ears of the reader, so that the
novel, now independent of its author, has to find a home, except in
this arena there are far more mismatches.
why it's so important to know what resonates with you and what does
not; to make your own judgements: be open to criticism and yet don't
just listen to what others say or tell you. Some novels (or authors)
are ripe for a certain window of time, some won't feel right but will
revisit you later or turn up when you least expect it. If you know
enough of yourself you'll know when that window has arrived. But,
initially, there has to be some effort.
reading, or the enjoyment of it, is not meant to necessarily be easy
or involving all the time. Some or most is pretty good going in my
book, and if you're flying, well, savour it because the next may be a
more turbulent flight of the imagination.
what I'm saying is that reading is like a relationship: full of ups
and downs, heady days and trial and permanent separations, and not
just with reading in general but with each novel, new to you or of
old. And like a person-to-person relationship, your feeling towards
and your taste in books will change; does this devalue the moments
you will have spent engrossed in print? No, not if what you treasure
foremost is the prose and secondly, the writer.
Picture credit: The Missal, 1902, John William Waterhouse